An Airborne Salute to MOH recipient Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta

I can tell you there are tens of thousands of American paratroopers, both exes and active, who are filled with pride tonight after the announcement that one of our own, Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, will be the first living recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor from the Iraq or Afghan wars.

There is a long history of exceptional valor among those warriors who have volunteered to jump from airplanes. I have been fortunate to know so many of these old and young warriors, from the original American paratroops, the hard case World War II veterans who were my sergeants major and battalion commanders when I was a young trooper back in the late ‘50’s right up until I finally retired from military marketing a few years ago.

Returning from my tour with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam in 1966, I was assigned to a brigade headquarters of the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. My roommate was Staff Sergeant Charles Morris, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, awarded for incredible bravery in Vietnam. Charley didn’t have an easy time of it; his nights and mine were constantly disrupted by his very vivid nightmares, where he was back in combat and about to die. Making the situation even more difficult to deal with, Charley would not discuss the combat details of the action which earned him his medal, with me or any of the other NCO’s who would have loved to hear of his exploits.

The lesson for me from that experience was that our real heroes, our truly valorous warriors, act out of a selflessness and sense of duty that most of us simply do not possess. And that selflessness separates true heroes from the wannabees. It’s what keeps them from sitting in the NCO or officers’ club recounting their heroics while lesser soldiers buy their drinks. Trust me, warriors who wear a CMH would never have to buy a drink ever again if they chose to exploit his honor. But here’s the truth, the real truth, the hard truth and the good truth: they don’t do that.

I have served simultaneously in units with three Congressional Medal of Honor winners and far more winners of Silver Stars and Distinguished Service Crosses. That experience has taught me one thing, real heroes don’t brag. From the first moment John Kerry began to boast about his four Purple Hearts, my BS detector went on full alert, and as my friends in the Swift Boat Veterans subsequently demonstrated, there were very good reasons my antennae were quivering.

Those phony warriors who lie about their military service and their valor awards bring terrible discredit to the true heroes like Staff Sergeants Giunta and Morris. The federal judges who dismiss their behavior as inconsequential because no one is damaged are truly out of touch with the brotherhood that protects them.

For all you old Jarheads out there who think my old Airborne head too swelled with pride, here’s my tribute to you. Paratroopers always loved to fight the Marines because you were worthy adversaries, and I have managed to live through bar room brawls between the two services worthy of a John Wayne movie. Of course, the paratroopers always won. At least that’s the way this old trooper remembers it. Heh, heh…Semper Fi!

And here’s a salute, Airborne! And Semper Fi! from all of us who ever bore a weapon in combat, to Staff Sergeant Giunta. And while we’re at it, to Command Sergeant Major Charles B. Morris, the paratrooper’s paratrooper. May you, SSGT Giunta, follow in Charley’s jump boot steps and become a sergeant major and an inspiration to the young paratroopers who follow.

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I can tell you there are tens of thousands of American paratroopers, both exes and active, who are filled with pride tonight after the announcement that one of our own, Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, will be the first living recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor from the Iraq or Afghan wars.

There is a long history of exceptional valor among those warriors who have volunteered to jump from airplanes. I have been fortunate to know so many of these old and young warriors, from the original American paratroops, the hard case World War II veterans who were my sergeants major and battalion commanders when I was a young trooper back in the late ‘50’s right up until I finally retired from military marketing a few years ago.

Returning from my tour with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam in 1966, I was assigned to a brigade headquarters of the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. My roommate was Staff Sergeant Charles Morris, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, awarded for incredible bravery in Vietnam. Charley didn’t have an easy time of it; his nights and mine were constantly disrupted by his very vivid nightmares, where he was back in combat and about to die. Making the situation even more difficult to deal with, Charley would not discuss the combat details of the action which earned him his medal, with me or any of the other NCO’s who would have loved to hear of his exploits.

The lesson for me from that experience was that our real heroes, our truly valorous warriors, act out of a selflessness and sense of duty that most of us simply do not possess. And that selflessness separates true heroes from the wannabees. It’s what keeps them from sitting in the NCO or officers’ club recounting their heroics while lesser soldiers buy their drinks. Trust me, warriors who wear a CMH would never have to buy a drink ever again if they chose to exploit his honor. But here’s the truth, the real truth, the hard truth and the good truth: they don’t do that.

I have served simultaneously in units with three Congressional Medal of Honor winners and far more winners of Silver Stars and Distinguished Service Crosses. That experience has taught me one thing, real heroes don’t brag. From the first moment John Kerry began to boast about his four Purple Hearts, my BS detector went on full alert, and as my friends in the Swift Boat Veterans subsequently demonstrated, there were very good reasons my antennae were quivering.

Those phony warriors who lie about their military service and their valor awards bring terrible discredit to the true heroes like Staff Sergeants Giunta and Morris. The federal judges who dismiss their behavior as inconsequential because no one is damaged are truly out of touch with the brotherhood that protects them.

For all you old Jarheads out there who think my old Airborne head too swelled with pride, here’s my tribute to you. Paratroopers always loved to fight the Marines because you were worthy adversaries, and I have managed to live through bar room brawls between the two services worthy of a John Wayne movie. Of course, the paratroopers always won. At least that’s the way this old trooper remembers it. Heh, heh…Semper Fi!

And here’s a salute, Airborne! And Semper Fi! from all of us who ever bore a weapon in combat, to Staff Sergeant Giunta. And while we’re at it, to Command Sergeant Major Charles B. Morris, the paratrooper’s paratrooper. May you, SSGT Giunta, follow in Charley’s jump boot steps and become a sergeant major and an inspiration to the young paratroopers who follow.

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